WASHINGTON (NBC News) — President Donald Trump’s policy that has resulted in the separation of parents and children along the southern border may have accomplished something Latino activist groups haven’t before: Prompting a long-term voter registration drive uniting progressive and traditional Democratic groups.
On Thursday, a new coalition led by the nonprofit advocacy group Voto Latino will launch a three-year, multi-million dollar effort to register Hispanics, who’ve historically been among the least likely group of voters to cast a ballot, NBC News has learned.
Despite decades of effort by liberal-leaning organizations, Hispanic voters consistently turn out in numbers far lower than other demographic groups relative to their population. Every year, Democrats promise a surge in Latino turnout and spend millions on the cause, only to come up short. That was true even in 2016, after Trump launched his presidential campaign by calling many undocumented Mexicans drug dealers and rapists.
According to exit polling, Trump performed about the same among Hispanic voters as Republican Mitt Romney did in 2012, capturing 28 percent of the vote.
With the national narrative shifting from immigration policy to family separations — including hundreds of children who still haven’t been reunited with their parents — progressives believe this time is different.
“Multiple organizations are finally talking to each other,” said Wilmer Valderrama, a Hollywood actor, and Voto Latino board member. “A lot of this campaign is going to be about educating our young people and sharpening their tools so they understand how to represent their family,” he said.
“What was clear was that unifying our voices under one banner proved powerful,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, Voto Latino president, and an MSNBC contributor.
The coalition was created after Latino interest groups, in a span of six days in June, galvanized over 40 organizations and a host of Hollywood names, including Lena Dunham, Chelsea Handler, and Mira Sorvino, to protest a child detention tent city in Tornillo, Texas.
Sponsors of the effort include Emerge America, a Democratic women’s network, the Service Employees International Union and Rock the Vote. Spanish-language television networks Telemundo and Univision are participating, while celebrities including Valderrama, Rosario Dawson, and America Ferrera are celebrity sponsors.